Be strong and courageous

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A.J. is one of the most independent toddlers I’ve met.  But sadly she has adopted her fierce impatience from me… Lately, she has been crying out “I can’t do it!” when she gets just too overwhelmed with the task at hand. I encourage her as much as I can, and I pray as she goes through life crying “I can’t do it” at moments and situations where she feels down about herself, she is surrounded by others who will empower and encourage her.

During August, I have been writing blog posts for The Twelve on Sundays, and I consider this week’s writing sort of a “Dear A.J.” post (in a series where I document memories and thoughts about A.J.’s life).

You can read more here.

Asserting myself through infertility

I hate confrontation… I hate conflict. And I have been trying to work at becoming more assertive and confident in loving and compassionate ways. I have come to realize that I do not always assert myself in situations where I should because I am nervous about hurting other peoples’ feelings in the process of asserting my own. (Side note: I love reading, so if you have any books that you think I would like, tell me!)

It is not news that conceiving is hard for me and my husband. So far, our infertility is unexplained (we have had a few tests to be able to rule out some things, but nothing has become clear about why it has been difficult for us to conceive). In the three years we waited to have a child (before A.J.), it was difficult for me to overhear complaints about other peoples’ pregnancies or children. In my own longing for children, I became bitter overhearing others complain about things like tiredness or morning sickness; when I suffered from both while pregnant with A.J., I had a greater appreciation for expecting mothers needing to share their experiences with others, both positive and difficult. (I wrote a little about this here). As I long for another child, I try to remind myself of this as I feel the creeping of bitterness overcome me again. I have been working to find ways to be joyful in others’ growing families while also preserving myself and mental well-being. One of these ways was to remove myself from some social media platforms where I found I was becoming discouraged when I came across peoples’ complaints of weight gain, tiredness, sickness, or something else that they were entirely allowed to feel, but in the process triggered me into a spiral of sadness and self pity.

This past weekend, we were watching the Olympics with my parents. With the exception of A.J., everyone in the room suffers from their own personal physical affliction(s) – bad knees, hips,shoulders and backs all around. Watching a gymnastics event, we all watched in awe, exclaiming that it pained us just to watch these women run, fling themselves over a vault, twirl through the air, and land (or not land…). Watching others in their physical prime reminded us of our own incapacities. We were in awe of these athletes and their talents, skills and abilities while also very aware of our own shortcomings.

I feel similar when I hear and see pregnancy announcements. Especially being fortunate to already be a mom myself and knowing the happiness A.J. brings to our entire family, I feel joy for someone else when they announce that their family is growing. But lately I have heard and read many exclaim excitedly that getting pregnant happened on their first try, or very easily, or perhaps was a joyful “surprise”. I can’t help but admit that hearing of other peoples’ fertility only makes me so much more aware of my own broken body and infertility. 

I have written before about finding strength through my faith and through the Bible. On Pinterest, I came across a printable which really resonated with feelings I have been having about my body and how it is failing me in our desire to have another baby. I have been reflecting on all that I experienced while waiting for A.J. – experiences and jobs I wouldn’t have had if we had gotten pregnant right away.  And I take comfort in knowing that God has stuff in store for me as I await another child. I have taken the verse and created a cover picture for Facebook for anyone else who would like to use it.

Psalm73.26

In reflecting on how I assert myself and communicate, I have realized (read: am realizing this only as I am writing this post) that I have hesitated to share too much of my own longing for another child, the difficulties of infertility, and my feelings about it all. I think that I resist being too vulnerable in fear of making others feel uncomfortable. (Even as I write this post, I second guess actually publishing it). But this is my journey, my reality. I’ve shared before that I enjoy writing to process my feelings. As many of my friends and family who have read my (very) sporadic postings can attest, I cannot promise to write faithfully. But I was invited this month to be a guest poster on The Twelve for the four Sundays of August, and I have come to appreciate the discipline of making myself sit down, reflect and write as a practice. So perhaps I will try to be more disciplined at writing here. And maybe this will be a place where others who are feeling vulnerable about their journeys can feel less lonely.

A new room for A.J.

Today, A.J. officially moved into her new bedroom.

It was so bittersweet.

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When we first moved in almost two years ago, we were torn between putting her into the smaller room across the hall from our master bedroom, or the much larger room at the end of the hall – the best room on the second floor, and arguably the best room in the whole house as it’s very bright with three windows and a nice view (the fluorescent pink on the walls might also contribute to the brightness…).  A.J. was only 9 months old when we moved in, so the room across the hall was better for any middle of the night wake ups. The plan was for her to graduate into the larger pink room when we were to get pregnant again, keeping the smaller blue room as a nursery.

We’ve been waiting and so hoping for a reason to move A.J. into the larger, nicer room. And unfortunately we have not had a reason to kick her out of the nursery yet. We contemplated keeping her in her existing room for as long as it takes for us to get pregnant again (down the hall seems so far from us when there’s a closer room!), but it seemed like such a shame to waste the brightest room upstairs! So, with excitement and some sadness, I tackled the “pink room.” It has acted as a “guest bedroom” over the last two years. And by “guest bedroom,” I mean it had a double bed in there until A.J. started using just the mattress a couple months ago, and we left the frame and box spring sitting in the corner utterly surrounded by piles of storage and boxes… I really wish I had taken a “before” picture before organizing the room, because I could hardly walk around in it…

Part of cleaning out the larger room was going through all of the baby stuff that A.J. no longer uses – bins and bins full of clothes, soothers, smaller cloth diapers as well as her old crib, bathtub, toys, a swing, etc. Oh the feelings, of having to go through that stuff… For the last two years, I have been putting this stuff away in the “pink room” with bittersweet feelings – knowing that A.J. was growing big and strong, and excitement that one day I would get to go through everything again when we were ready to use the nursery for a new baby.  To have to go through all this stuff just for the sake of cleaning and organizing- not because there is a need to pull everything out, launder it, organize it – it was hard.

While organizing, I came across this door hanger that I made while we were waiting to get matched (when we were going through the adoption process, before we were surprised with A.J.). For the second time, I placed this door hanger on the door knob and wondered what the future of our family will look like. For now, the nursery contains stuff that we will hopefully be able to use again. We’ll likely keep the door closed – it’s hard to see the piles of stuff.  Plus, we also have a cat so the less vacuuming I have to do, the better. And there are quite a few annoying baby toys in there that A.J. would love to get her hands on again!

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But cleaning and organizing had it’s sweet times too. I came across some boxes of things I had put away until A.J. got a little bit older, like some porcelain dolls that were mine when I was a young girl. A.J. loved seeing them and constantly asks to hold them; it was an odd feeling to see her playing with things that I was fond of when I was young. There were also tons of books that I had purchased while we were in the “waiting” phase during our pre-A.J. life, so now her book collection has almost doubled!

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As emotional (and a little teary) as the last couple of days have been, I’m glad I managed to push through. A.J. loves her new room. And it sure does feel great not to have such a cluttered and junk-filled room!

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Those windows though!!!

You are getting so big…

Dear A.J.

Tonight when I put you to bed, I held back tears. It was your first night in your “big girl bed” (a double mattress on the floor). You are getting so big.

Earlier today when I was getting you out of your carseat, you said to me “I want you to be my friend, mommy” and it melted my heart. You are getting so big.

When we got home and moved the mattress into your room, your (insistent) response to me laying on your new bed was “no mommy, don’t lie on my bed.”  You are getting so big.


But tonight when I tucked you into your new bed and went to leave, you kept insisting “lie down with me mommy.” And I couldn’t resist. I often still “rock you like a baby” (usually at your request). When I do this, I ask you “are you mommy’s baby?” And you typically respond with “I’m your baby and your big girl.” Tonight, tucking your small body into such a big bed, you were definitely my baby and my big girl. You are getting so big.

I had to take this picture when you threw your arms out to hug us both saying “I love you guys!!! This is the best day ever!” You usually proclaim every day is the best day ever, and I absolutely love this joy about you.

 ***please excuse the poor quality phone pictures!

community

Growing up, Halloween was never a big thing in my family. We never felt like we missed out though – the holiday was usually spent in Niagara Falls or Myrtle Beach or Florida where we also celebrated my parents’ wedding anniversary (on the 24th!). (And we typically traveled with a lot of candy and chocolate, so we never missed out on that aspect of the holiday!) Being homeschooled for most of my elementary and secondary school years, October holidays always felt exciting because attractions were less crowded and it was exciting to know that while others were stuck in school, we were away having fun!

Once Mark and I got married, we lived on the outskirts of the city (think more country, less city, but not super secluded) on a busier road. We lived across from a housing subdivision, but we never got any trick or treaters. I love holidays, but Halloween has never really been on my holiday radar.

We moved just before Halloween last year, but A.J. was only about 10 months old, and we weren’t sure how popular trick or treating was in our small rural community. It turns out, there were more young families that we were aware of, and there were more trick or treaters than we had thought there would be. So this year, we were excited to get A.J. dressed up and go trick or treating!

mommy and ajI’ve never really understood all hype around Halloween (well, except the chocolate. I love any reason to gather and eat loads of chocolate). But now I have a brand new appreciation for the holiday. Being in a more rural community, it’s been difficult to find opportunities to meet our neighbours. When we first moved in, we walked up long driveways to meet our immediate neighbours, but that took us to the extent of our comfort zone. So trick or treating allowed us to use our daughter as an excuse to unabashedly knock on our neighbours’ doors and introduce ourselves!

The sense of community I felt last night – it felt great! I have a feeling that next year I’m going to be *that* person who goes overboard with decorating!  Our favourite house had a decoration on the door that made spooky noises once you knocked. I was a little surprised and was paying too much attention watching A.J. looking at the decoration to hear the house’s occupant walking up to the door… I jumped and yelped when she opened the door (feeling somewhat like a fool since I – a grown woman – was scared, while the toddler standing next to me was unfazed).

12193716_10153919564347203_2069690805794276601_nI came across this article (“Four reasons you should go trick-or-treating tonight”) today, and I really liked its emphasis on taking advantage of Halloween to establish or maintain a healthy sense of community with your neighbours. I read the second reason, “there is no other night when you get to go to your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself without any awkwardness” and it completely resonated with how I felt all evening last night while we were out and about in our community.

Interacting with some of my neighbours also gave me the chance to apologize for our rooster…. More of that to come!

the practice of thankfulness

gratitudeYesterday, I was in a funk.

I’ve been struggling the last couple of days with feelings of unworthiness, been a little stressed out about some projects I’ve been working on, and I think I’ve been struggling with some “last days of summer blues.”

I know full and well the power of going to church, coming before God, and being in fellowship with other Christians during times of stress and being overwhelmed.

And yet… admittedly, I just couldn’t bring myself to “get up and at ’em” for church…

Instead, I worshiped on the trails.

Next week, I’m pulling A.J. in the bike trailer as a fundraiser for Restorations. I’ve been trying to bike more to prepare, and I’ve really been enjoying biking for exercise. I feel so much better – mentally and physically – when I exercise on a regular basis, but I’ve been finding it difficult to find something that fits my budget, interest and time. I bought a used bike trailer off Kijiji and love that I now have an activity that makes me feel like I’m working hard and can do with A.J.  But yesterday, I just took myself and my bike to the nearest trails, and within moments nature and the act of moving my body uplifted me.

I spent some time in worship, and I told myself to thank God for 5 things in my life.

I seriously have so much to be thankful for. The news (Syrian refugees, slavery, natural disasters, recessions, etc.) is a constant reminder of how thankful I should be for what I have.

But can I shamefully admit something?

I had a hard time (at first) coming up with things to be thankful for. Not necessarily because I had trouble coming up with anything, but at first the practice seemed silly to me; I kept coming up with genuine things I was thankful for (family, health), but then I questioned myself: are these just “easy” answers? I felt like the kids during children’s sermons who automatically answer any question asked of them with “God,” “Jesus,” “Bible,” “love.”

So I thought to myself: how can I better practice thankfulness? The 5 things I came up with for which I’m thankful, they weren’t “wrong” answers (although they felt easy). But how can I continue to practice thankfulness so I can find gratitude in anything and everything? Stop comparing my life to others? Find gratitude in the tough or mundane circumstances? Be thankful for the people who really drive me crazy or hurt me?

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

Finding things to be thankful got easier the farther I rode. I easily surpassed five (things, and kilometers!). Now I just have to keep practicing.

Beloved Boomer


Today we euthanized our beloved cat Boomer (or as A.J. lovingly calls her “Beeno”). What a tough decision, to let go of a pet that has been a family member for almost 6 years. It was especially difficult because Boomer was the first pet Mark and I adopted after we got married – just a little over a month after our wedding. She was already an older cat when we adopted her, and she made our family of husband and wife into a family of 3.    When we first started looking for a cat to adopt after we got married, we looked for a male who we were planning to name Hilo (a name with double meaning for us – it is a place we visited in Hawaii when we were there for our honeymoon. But Helo – spelled differently but sounds the same – is also character from Battlestar Gallactica, one of our favourite sci-fi shows). Instead we came across Boomer – not a kitten but a full grown sweet (but not overly affectionate) cat. She was not named Boomer when we adopted her, but Mark and I decided that we would continue to keep our eyes out for a male cat and name our first family addition “Boomer,” another (complimentary) character from Battlestar. (We did eventually adopt our Hilo a month later.)

Boomer & Hilo our first Christmas. Hilo would very quickly overtake Boomer in size – 3x in fact.

Boomer was always patient - with Hilo, with our dog Jedi, and then with A.J.

Boomer was always patient – with Hilo, with our dog Jedi (who will miss his face baths), and then with A.J.

Boomer was always a constant study companion.

Boomer was always a constant study companion.

Over the last couple of months, her health has been deteriorating. We made the difficult decision to let her go quietly and lovingly before her quality of life diminished too much. A.J. was with us, but fortunately she did not really grasp what was going on (after a long afternoon, she was actually watching Bubble Guppies on my phone as we held Boomer for the last time). Mark asked me after the fact if I had heard A.J. just before the vet injected Boomed (I had not heard her). Apparently she said “Beeno, sleepy.” Upon hearing him tell me this, my already cried-out eyes welled up again.

We returned her body back to a home that she has known for the last 11 months – our backyard where she enjoyed exploring. With tears in my eyes, I dug her grave and here “Beeno” forever sleeps.

Lamp makeover

This past winter, I explained to Mark that I found it extra difficult to work on my thesis with A.J. around and no work surface in our family room. (It was difficult enough to find spare minutes to read or write, but not having a work surface made the challenge greater.) I have a home office, but it is fairly cluttered and there are lots of books which are super interesting – especially to a toddler. So Mark made me this awesome wood table – exactly what I was envisioning for our family room.

This is My Creativity: family room country tableA couple of months ago my mom mentioned that she was throwing out a lamp. It’s fairly dated (no offense, mom! Though you already know this since you bought a new one and were looking to get rid of this one).  I asked if I could take it, guessing that it would be fairly simple to give it a makeover.

This is My Creativity: lamp makeoverFor months I’ve been on the lookout for a lamp shade for the lamp makeover. The shades I saw were too pricey or too big or just too trendy. I wanted something that would make the lamp look more modern (than it’s plain green lampshade on a brass base), but not too contemporary for our century country home.

I finally came across a lampshade that fit my cost/look ratio criteria. At first I wasn’t too sure how I felt about it – would I grow tired of the colours? Was it too pink? But I liked how colourful it was, and A.J. has recently come to love butterflies. I figured even if I eventually grow tired of it in the family room, maybe it will eventually be something that can go in her room once we renovate upstairs.

In the loft of our shop, the old owners left this old melamine tv unit that I am in the process of refinishing as a play kitchen for A.J. In searching for paints suitable for melamine (limited options from what I’ve found…), I came across Krylon Dual Superbond. In experimenting with it a little on the tv unit, I really like it. Ask anyone, Mark and I hate painting. But I have become recently fascinated with the ease of spray painting. There are limited “fun” colours in the Dual Superbond type of Krylon paint, but luckily the “Ivy Leaf” colour was both a fun shade and perfectly matches the tiny green butterflies on the lamp shade. Two quick coats later and…

This is My Creativity: lamp makeover

This is My Creativity: lamp makeover

My camera doesn’t quite capture the true colour of the green

This is My Creativity: lamp makeover

This is My Creativity: lamp makeover

Cost of the lamp makeover: a little over $30 ($19.98 for the lamp shade and $6.94 for the spray paint). Could I have found a cheaper lamp? Yeah, probably. But I love that mine is so colourful and custom. And I saved something from the dump, reducing landfill waste. I really love projects that involve restoring something that would have otherwise been chucked into the garbage.

Plus A.J. had some fun too. While I was cooking dinner last night, I hear behind me “Lamp. Hat.” (Sorry for the blurry pics; I quickly snapped pictures from my phone before the novelty of a lampshade hat worn off).

This is My Creativity: lamp makeoverThis is My Creativity: lamp makeover

belonging + balance

I’ve been thinking on how/whether to write this post… On the one hand, I blog as a way to journal some of my thoughts and reflections. And yet, I don’t want to appear as if I am complaining or airing feelings that are pretty private. But after more reflection, I am hoping that others can perhaps resonate with these feelings. So I’m posting!

Since moving further into the country almost 10 months ago, it has been bittersweet. Our family loves our house (or I should say the potential of our house; we’ve not really loved the unexpected repairs), having more property to roam, the small community we’ve moved into, and other benefits of moving here. At the same time, we are little further from family and friends (still close in comparison to others who make more drastic moves!) and being in a more rural location – though serene and peaceful – can sometimes be lonely. We are not so rural that we cannot see neighbours, but there are not many young families around us, and that makes being a working from home mom sometimes lonely.

I am so incredibly blessed to have a job that I love – the ability to find meaning and purpose in my work, and to feel accomplishment in utilizing my gifts, talents and passion around issues of social justice. I am also blessed that I primarily work from home – giving me the ability to spend a lot of time with A.J. while also pursuing professional goals. But working from home comes with its challenges as well, especially the aspect of not being immediately surrounded by a support team where I can just poke my head into a colleague’s office to receive feedback, ideas or affirmation. This can be lonely, and I often have doubts about whether the work that I’m doing is meeting expectations since I am not able to immediately measure my productivity against others working around me.

We are multi-faceted beings. We are often faced with the need to balance aspects of our lives whether they’re familial, relational, professional, health, educational, personal, financial, and other obligations. I know that I am not alone in my struggle to maintain balance, and yet in the last couple of months I’ve been struggling not only to find healthy balance, but also to find belonging. I am a stay at home mom. And yet I struggle to connect with other stay at home moms because sometimes my professional commitments consume my time or my mind. I am so fulfilled by my professional and activist commitments! But I also try to develop healthy boundaries so I am not constantly checking my emails or working on projects during the time I have to spend with A.J.

I am so happy that A.J. will grow up seeing that her mom’s identity is multi-faceted: Christian, mom, spouse, daughter, friend, sister, activist, abolitionist, feminist. These identities are not formed in silos – I do not have dissociative identity disorder! Balance is established by allowing each area of my life to compliment another. As an abolitionist with a heart for those who are enslaved and exploited, my compassion and empathy only increased once I became a mother.

I am currently writing this post from Kansas City, Missouri where I am attending Exodus Cry’s Abolition Summit. Conferences and meetings away from home (though busy) are times of rejuvenation for me – connecting with colleagues and/or abolitionists, allowing me to conduct professional activities outside of my home office. And to be honest, it is rejuvenating not just professionally, but also personally: though it often feels odd to only be responsible for myself while I’m gone, it’s nice to only have to worry about my own meals, my own bathroom needs, my own clothes, etc.!  And while I’m gone I know that A.J. is having a blast with her daddy (and grandparents), and I am so blessed to have a support system that allows me to be able to focus on professional pursuits and social justice issues (that is, ones that I must focus on alone; I love exposing A.J. to activism when possible though!). Sometimes it’s rough; at this Summit in particular there have been pretty heavy stories, and I often long to hear A.J.’s giggle or have her arms around my neck. But being her mom makes me a better activist. And being passionate about social justice makes me a better mom.

Since coming to Missouri yesterday, the days have been long and exhausting – both physically, mentally and emotionally – so I am hope I am somewhat coherent in this post! If you have a chance to check out Exodus Cry‘s work, I encourage you to do so!

patience

I started this blog post the other night after a frustrating evening. In a moment where God must have certainly been teaching me more about patience, the draft of my post suddenly crashed. If I were writing about anything other than patience, I probably would have cried. Instead, I was able to appreciate the irony (and – to a lesser extent – a life lesson). I begrudgingly returned to my blog today to start the post from scratch only to find a pop-up asking me if I wanted to restore what I had started writing (uhhhhhh, YES PLEASE!). Having started this post a couple of days ago but finishing it up today, I have been able to further reflect on patience, self-control, composure and poise. However, despite the further reflection, I cannot say that I have increased my capacity – try as I may – in any of these areas.

franklin p jones quoteDear A.J.

You are fiercely independent.

You are my stubborn, spirited girl.

You have the ability like no one else to drive me absolutely crazy.

You whine (often incessantly). You scream “no!” (and yet still haven’t mastered the word “yes”).  Dinners are sometimes a battle (until we remember to add ketchup). You have started the “up! … Down!” game. The “all done!!! ……. More!!!” game.

But in the midst of intense impatience and frustration, I remember how you fell asleep on me a couple of days ago – for the first time in months (albeit, it was after you refused to nap for almost 2 hours……). I love how now that you’ve been learning and using so many words, you randomly come up to me and say “lap” because you want to sit with me. Today we were laughing together and you took my face in between your hands and I melted.

During a frustrating dinner a couple of evenings ago, you desperately wanted bread. But we wanted you to eat 3 bites of spaghetti first (or – heaven forbid – even one bite…). You screamed as if we were making you eat cockroaches. And then your brilliant daddy thought “hey, let’s add ketchup!” (you’ll eat anything with ketchup…) and you easily ate three bites as if you were eating a gourmet lobster dinner.  After this incredibly frustrating dinner, I watched you tenderly “feed” your stuffed animals. And I remember that as I cooked dinner that night, you – my fiercely independent girl, and yet my baby – came running to me during a “scary” part on Bubble Guppies, and you watched the rest of the scene hugging my legs. As I washed the dishes, you screeched in joy as you and Jedi played, and then came running to me, squeezing yourself in between my legs and the sink. This morning as I was preparing some food, you – for no apparent reason – came up to me, again squeezed in between the cabinets and my legs, and sat on my feet like they were your own personal couch.

image2And again later. Apparently your personal foot couch is a comfortable place to read.

image1I’ve been trying to teach you patience, but I’m not the best teacher in this area… Regardless, something you’ve learned from me: the word “patience.” You were fussing in the car the other day, and I asked you to have “patience.” You repeated the word all the way home – sometimes calmly, other times whining the word.

In the midst of impatience – both yours and consequently mine – I reflect on this…

You’re stubborn, but I’m hoping your stubbornness evolves into determination.

You’re spirited, but I know you’re lively spirit is part of your wonderful outgoing personality. I hope your spirit results in unending passion for people and issues you care about.

I love your independence. But I also love when you come and hung my legs while I’m trying to make dinner. I catch myself becoming impatient that you’ve interrupted my path, and then realize that I love that you do it – despite your independence, you’re still my baby girl and you still love running to me. So I stand there and cherish your arms around my legs. More often than not, I don’t have to remove you from my legs – you’re off running to do something else.

Because you remind me so much of myself, I love learning from you: seeing some of my shortfalls and the characteristics I need to work on (patience perhaps!?). And revel in attributes that I most admire of myself.